Thursday, March 8, 2007

Brawl Britannia: News and Notes from the UK

By Jim Page

Things are heating up in the UK as both the UFC and Cage Rage do their very best to draw in a massive audience for up-coming shows — UFC 70 and Cage Rage 21 — which collide on April 21 in what will be the biggest day so far in UK MMA history.

The most significant announcement over the last week is without doubt the signing of a new deal between Cage Rage and UK satellite television company, Sky.

For the first time ever, UK fans will be able to tune in and watch a UK MMA show live as it unfolds on Sky Sports 3. However, whilst this TV deal may in general be astonishingly good news for the Cage Rage promotion, critics argue with some credence that it will have a negative affect on ticket sales.

Nonetheless, this is a fascinating development in the rivalry between the two shows — inevitably stirring up memories of the UFC airing four hours of knockouts on free TV in a transparent attempt to stifle the success of PRIDE's first visit to the U.S.

One thing you can be guaranteed is that the UFC will pull out all the stops to make sure their event is a success and the evidence is all around. In London — miles from the actual event — the UFC promotional team has shelled out for an incredible number of billboards and posters to supplement a national advertising campaign in Britain's most read newspaper, The Sun.

Early whispers suggest that the show has already sold a huge number of tickets and I would be deeply surprised if any were left available on the day.

Coming up in the more immediate future, the FX3 promotion is staging its third show in Reading this Saturday. Among an action-packed card, Paul Daley (Pictures) will be headlining as he defends his FX3 welterweight belt against the immensely talented German, Daniel Weichel.

Also featuring on the card is Semtex Daley's teammate, Andre Winner, who is in for a busy couple of months having signed to fight Ian Butlin (Pictures) for Cage Warriors in Nottingham on April 28.

Member of the infamous Northern Cartel fight team, Butlin is a real character, recently announcing at the Showdown event that he is the best lightweight in the country and inviting the entire division to step up for a fight. Winner was the first man to answer the call and, although giving up a considerable amount of experience, he will no doubt give "M16" a good run for his money.

In a bit of good news for hardcore UK MMA fans, one of the most genuine feuds on the scene will be revisited on the "Cage Fight Series" promotion in Ipswich, 12th May.

The bitter rivalry between Matt Ewin and Damien Riccio started when Riccio knocked Ewin out with a vicious left hand back in 2004. The rematch, less than a year later, saw both men cut and the fight declared a No Contest amongst allegations that both fighters illegally gouged each other's cuts. This third fight will be a complete tear up — worth the price of admission alone.

Before his fight with Riccio, however, Matt Ewin faces a serious test as he goes up against BJJ Black Belt Leo Negao on the Angrrr Management "Wired" card in Kidderminster on March 17.

Also appearing on the card are Cage Rage veterans Ross Mason, Marc Goddard and Dave Elliot, along with the highly anticipated match-up between Cage Warriors featherweight champion Danny Batten (watch for his interview on Friday) and Shooto veteran, Kyotaro Nakao.

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